I’ve spent my life craving connection- with God, people, and nature. This
insatiable appetite for communion led me to the greatest joy and fulfillment along with the most bitter and destructive pain. I am an addict, learning to live with my dependency on something I cannot find or create in myself; a sea creature that cannot exist without water. I have been Moses, four decades wandering in the desert before a burning bush surprised me with definition and direction.
The setting was a garden in the midst of black volcanic rock, suffering desert quantity rain. I had just walked away from home and a 20-year career to pursue my lifelong dream of medical missions, and to my dismay the medical personnel at the base I moved to were not interested in having me join them. Instead I was relegated to managing a dismal, wilted garden with the purpose of training missionaries dispersing all around the world to teach and multiply natural farming. The learning curve was steep and so was the hill I hauled heavy buckets of pig slop (I have the scars of a hernia repair to mark the memory). I cried plentiful tears of self pity, anger and confusion as I tackled this overwhelming task (which I assumed was some sort of punishment, or a lesson I needed to learn ASAP so I could get out of jail).
All I really knew of gardens was that God liked them (I assume this as He was the first to plant one) and they are supposed to be pretty. This place was far from pretty, or alive for that matter. I studied late every night, worked alongside my crews all day and planted flowers, cleaned,visited farmers, organized and painted on the weekends. My husband built a pergola as a Christmas gift for his garden obsessed wife and our students crafted a long table out of scrapped bunk beds to place underneath it. This was our classroom and meeting place, as our department had no office or indoor space. I planted fragrant vines along the posts, hung baskets of bright flowers all along the edges and built a living gutter garden wall. It was enchanting and peaceful and offered beauty and quiet in a desert crawling with people. As the garden greened up and welcoming information signs were created, the excitement built. The new meeting space invited people in and was quickly in demand day and night. Leadership who had never been to the garden, or even knew our department existed, started walking through regularly and bringing others to see it. Morale skyrocketed and momentum grew faster than the kale and pumpkins.
In the process I made many friends and my heart blossomed. I did what I had always done and invited all my new comrades to dinner- this time a potluck at the garden. White lights twisted around the pergola twinkled and scattered votive candles flickered as we fellowshipped late into the starlit night. The jasmine vine breathed its fragrance while the frogs serenaded us and new friendships were formed as old dreams and visions were shared. It was magical. Powerful. I fell asleep floating in joy and awoke perplexed at what had just happened.
Community. That’s what happened. This large group of missionaries had been plagued with loneliness and everyone was hungry for friendship and a place to belong. How did it happen overnight? The Lord revealed the power of the gift of hospitality and how it is a foundation and necessity for people to flourish the other gifts to operate. I had done what came natural, created space and beauty and invited others in. Hospitality ushered in community.
Community is at the heart of Christianity. God Himself communes with the Son and Holy Spirit (I John 5: 1-12) and He created us to need one another (Gen 2:18) My garden experience clarified what I am to be about and also explained why I am wired to grasp for community so intently- God gave me the gift of hospitality. This goes beyond inviting people over for dinner and extends to inviting the lonely into family and the lost into the Father’s house. As the world around us groans in loneliness, rejection and anger I become more convicted of God’s heart to invite them in. He offers a banquet of healing, belonging and peace and uses your table and my table to serve His special dishes.
I’ve been advised to focus on a theme for this blog. As I pondered all the enticing subjects I wanted to write about, the important things in my life- Jesus, family, farm, kitchen, missions, garden -I realized that they all followed the same theme of community. That’s what we are going to talk about here- Community. Communing with God, our families, nature, our local communities and our brothers and sisters in far away places. I hope you join the conversation- I kept a chair at the table for you.